Thursday, March 31, 2011

Organising the evening meal in the morning

Bowl of cooked pasta - note my Nanna's old colander
This is the only thing that has been my 'saving grace' in trying to get an evening meal on the table and avoiding takeaways on the nights I work. I'm looking forward to cooler weather as it's so much easier to organise 'one pot dinners' using my crock pot but those kind of meals are just too hot to eat in our warmer weather.

Even if I can 'prep' dinner in the morning, I feel like I'm ahead of the game. Things like tossing a salad (and adding dressing just before serving), prepping the vegetables and then cooking the meat just before dinner time, helps a lot.

Tonight's dinner is a Chicken & Bacon Pasta Bake. It's baked and ready to be served with a salad tonight. Not much to it. Chop and fry a chicken breast and bacon, add grated vegies, tinned tomatoes, chopped onion, garlic, salt & pepper, chicken stock and herbs. Boil pasta. Combine the cooked chicken mixture with the pasta, top with a simple white sauce then grated cheese and cook in the oven for about 20 minutes. Freezes really well. We'll probably get 3 or 4 meals out of this.

In the cooler months, I like to do stews, casseroles, a meatloaf, pasta sauces or curries in my slow cooker. One dish, one cooking process and one dish to wash up. That's the way, ah hah, ah hah, I like it, ah hah. Prepping dinner this way also means less washing up at night time, a time when I like to relax after a busy day.

Not sure what the kids are having. (*wink wink*)


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Where does the day go?

Where does my day go? I'd like to know. If anyone finds it, could you please send it back to me?

It usually starts anywhere between 6:00am and 7:00am, Monday to Friday. First job is coffee or tea, then get the kids up for breakfast, dressed for school and Kindergarten, pack lunch boxes (if it hasn't been done the night before - I usually make a week's worth of sandwiches and freeze them - one less step and we're out the door by 8:00am.

Monday's I come home and do the housework. Tuesday's, these last couple of weeks, I have been helping out at my daughter's school with various activities and Wednesday, is supposedly "Decluttering Day" and I expect this format to last until, at least, the end of this year because, boy, do I have a lot of decluttering to do. I want to go through each cupboard in each room and get rid of it all. I'm not putting myself under too much pressure though. It's not like it's going anywhere. It'll be here, week in, week out, waiting for me.

Today is the perfect example of no decluttering being done. I went straight from school drop off to the library to return some books (and get some more - my kids are right into jokes at the moment and I really needed to get a joke book because their jokes were so lame. For example, my daughter's joke this morning. "Why did the potato cross the road? Because it forgot it's underwear!!!!" So lame but she thought it was hilarious. By the time I had a good browse around the library, a quick look through the shops and put some winter clothes (on sale) on layby for my daughter, it was 10:30am by the time I got home.

Phoned my Mother then and an hour later, it was lunch time! Managed to get a load of washing done and that's about it. So I'm "outta time" for today to get any decluttering done but no worry. It'll be there next week for me to do. (I so love my time on my own to browse the library and the shops without any kids in tow. Does that make me a bad Mum? No. Makes me a relaxed one and one that can tackle what the rest of the day throws at me when I have to leave the house at 2:30pm to collect the rascals!


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Dolly for My Daughter

My 6 year old girl, E, developed a little cold over the weekend and she is prone to asthmatic type symptoms when she gets a cold, without actually having asthma, if that makes sense. I decided to keep her home from school yesterday (on my Housework Day - how dare she get sick on Housework Day!) and she kept herself amused for most of the day with writing, spelling, drawing and playing, but I'd promised we'd make a doll from her new sewing book, "Made by Me" by Jane Bull and a doll we made.

It was loosely based on the above design, using that pattern, but we changed the hairstyle a bit and drew her face on. Pity my sewing machine is still playing up. One of these days I'll get around to doing a DIY service or taking it to a repair shop or accidently drop it from the balcony so my husband will buy me a new one, hopefully!

A got the idea for doing the hair from this blog, Bybido. There are some lovely handmade dolls on this blog.

Even had time to whip up a little skirt and top for it. No time for a button or a clip as I hadn't even started dinner. Thank goodness for pinking shears and safety pins!

Running with Glitter


Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday is Housework Day

After a couple of weeks now at my new housework routine, I'm finding it quite easy to follow (even with a sick child home from school today).

I love reading organising blogs. I love them! I get these ideas in my head like "that's exactly the way I would do it" or "those people think exactly the same as me" or "this is the answer I've been looking for". You'd think I'd have all those schedules and housework plans in place. Oh no! Instead, all I've done is read a lot of organising blogs and nothing else. My motto for most things I do is "KISS", ie "Keep It Simple Stupid". I became so overwhelmed with what some organising blogs suggested by writing schedules, plans, keeping lists of cleaning supplies etc etc. I don't believe it has to be as complicated as that and I proved it today.

I just decided that Monday is Housework Day and that's what I do on Mondays, sick or healthy, sick children at home, rain, hail or shine. I have a pretty small, three bedroom house with a separate bathroom and toilet and second toilet in the laundry downstairs. I only have the bathroom, toilet and kitchen floors to wash and the three bedrooms and living room to vacuum. I also thought that I'd add one job into that, as I saw was necessary. Dusting doesn't need doing every week or washing down walls. It looks like our hot weather might be finally over for a few months after a cooler, breezy weekend and it was the first time in months that I turned the ceiling fans off. Much to my disgrace, I saw how dirty they were. That's the job I added to my housework 'list' today. Everything else I see during the week can wait until the following Monday.

Ewww yuck!
I tend to do things as I see they need doing or while I'm doing something else, for example, when the kids have finished in the bath, I give the bath a wipe over. If the toilet is looking like monster trucks have just done a burn out (which is often with two young children), I clean the toilet. It's not that hard, in my opinion.

No schedules, plans, lists etc for me. Just do the housework on Monday and have the rest of the week to do things that I like to do, except for Wednesday, which is decluttering day (and don't forget the washing on every other day).

I also managed to make a Chocolate Slice and sew a doll for my daughter today. Something unheard of in weeks past. Just have the washing to fold tonight. Who know's what's in store for tomorrow? Might get time to shave my legs, an annual event these last couple of years.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Peach Cakes (or otherwise known as Jelly Lamingtons)

My Nanna used to make these for us all the time when we were young. Based on the Aussie icon, the lamington, it's just basically a vanilla cake or sponge, traditionally cooked in a gem iron.

Gem iron
 When cakes are cooked, they are split and rolled in unset raspberry jelly and rolled in coconut and filled with fresh cream. I've got both gem irons and these kind of cake pans (below) and decided to use them instead.

I used my favourite cake recipe, the "No Fuss Fudge Cake" only because it's so quick and easy but you could use leftover cake of any kind, a packet cake mix, a sponge cake recipe or any other vanilla (or chocolate if you like) cake recipe.

Once cakes are cooked and cooled, roll in unset jelly and coconut.

Fill with fresh cream and store in refrigerator.

Peach Cakes

Use your favourite vanilla cake recipe OR packet cake mix OR leftover cake cut into rounds, squares, whatever

1 pkt raspberry jelly (make up as per directions and refrigerate until nearly set)
desiccated coconut for rolling
fresh cream, whipped to a stiff consistency


Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Last of My Tropical Flowers

Ginger Lily (Hedychium gardnerianum)
It's Autumn here in Australia and, one would think, getting a bit cooler during the day and a nice, fresh, crispness in the air. Oh no! Here in Brisbane, we've had temperatures in the low to mid 30's this week and I think the tropical plants in my front garden are thinking "what happened to Autumn - I thought we were done for the year?".

Bromeliad - Billbergia pyramidalis
I have many species of bromeliad and I love them for being low maintenance, great ground covers, very drought tolerant and self sufficient.

Flowers aren't out for long before they start to fade in colour.
I love loved my front garden. Before kids, it was beautifully maintained, although it's a pretty low maintenance garden. It's full of tropical species and I prefer colourful foliage rather than flowers to keep all year round colour. We have a pond with a waterfall and quite an ecosystem happening with lots of lizards, frogs, spiders and every other kind of bug you could imagine. It's empty at the moment and in need of a good clean. We can't keep the water up to it because of the evaporation from the heat. Didn't have any problems back in December/January with all the rain.

Since the kids came, it's become quite overgrown and needs a good cutting back and a few garden beds replenished with new plants, made from cuttings of existing plants.

Another job to add to the ever growing list.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Daughter's First Craft Project

On a visit to my Aunt's last weekend, I took a little project for my 6 year old daughter to do while us grown ups were talking and nattering about quilts and all things crafty. She was very happy to join in on the conversations but she was also very keen to sew her felt butterfly. She's done a few simple embroidery projects but not really finished any of them. This is her first. I stuffed it for her today and put a button on for the head and a pipe cleaner for the antennae. I'm really proud of her and she's already looking forward to the next project, which will be a doll from "Made by Me", by Jane Bull, a delicious book of easy children's craft.

I'm really proud of her and hope this instils in her a desire to do all things crafty.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Salted Caramel Filled Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes

I made these late last year and thought they were worth a mention. The cupcake is the old faithful "No Fuss Fudge Cake" which I've spoken about before on this blog.

For these cupcakes I replaced the 1 cup of water with 1 cup of freshly brewed espresso. Once baked, I scooped out a small piece of cake and spooned in gooey, oozey, salted caramel. I made a salted caramel by boiling up a can of condensed milk and adding salt flakes once spooned into the cupcakes. I topped with espresso flavoured buttercream and made chocolate covered coffee beans to garnish.

Very gooey, very rich and very decadent. Just the way I like it!

Salted Caramel Filled Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes

1.5 cups plain flour
3 tbs cocoa
1 cup sugar
1 cup freshly brewed espresso, reserving 1 tbs for making the buttercream (or 1 cup of hot water with 1 tbs instant coffee dissolved)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbs white vinegar
6 tbs oil (I use canola)
1 tsp bicarb soda
half tsp salt

Turn oven to 180 C. Put the flour, sugar and cocoa in a bowl. Add coffee liquid, vanilla, vinegar, oil, baking soda and salt. Mix with beaters until smooth. (Mixture is runny.) Pour into cupcake papers. Bake 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Salted Caramel Filling:
30g butter
40ml (2 tbs) golden syrup
395g (1 can) sweetened condensed milk
salt flakes

Place butter and golden syrup in a medium, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When butter has melted, add condensed milk. Stir constantly over medium heat for about 9-12 minutes, until caramel thickens.

Espresso Buttercream:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups icing sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs espresso liquid (reserve when making cake)

Beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add the espresso and vanilla and continue to beat until it is completely incorporated, scraping the sides as necessary.

Assembling Cupcakes:
Cut a small piece of cake out of the top of each cupcake, about 2cm deep. (Reserve for cake balls or pops.) Fill with a spoonful of caramel and sprinkle salt flakes on top. Pipe buttercream onto cupcakes. (I chocolate coated some coffee beans for garnish.)


Monday, March 21, 2011

My Talented Aunt - Quilter Extraordinaire

If only I had half the creative gene of my Aunt. After a lovely visit with her on the weekend, I'm more determined to get busy with the sewing machine and get stuck into my quilting projects. She's such an inspiration. I did ask her if she did a lot of quilting when her children were young and she said "no". She only had enough time to manage to sew clothes for her four boys. (Poor thing. Four boys and all that creative talent for homemade items. I guess she made it up to them by providing a lovely home for them to live in. I can remember there were always hand crocheted and knitted items around the house and lots of lovely food coming from the kitchen.)  Here are some examples of completed projects and works in progress.    
Machine embroidered pansies - each one is a block that will form part of a quilt for my Mother's 80th birthday present.

Hand embroidered block - this will form part of the quilt for my Mother. Blocks will be joined by insertion lace.

Machine embroidered teapots - they are placed vertically and will form a wall hanging. The lace doilie is machine embroidered as well.

Waterfall quilt
Machine embroidered placemat

Close ups of placemat - you can insert a serviette into the opening of the tea cup.

The quilt on my Aunt's bed - the 'ladies' are hand appliqued onto the quilt.

A close up of the 'ladies'. So many different colour combinations.
Single bed dragon quilt
There's still quite a few more photos. I'll save them for another time. Hopefully I'll have my own projects to show you soon.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Crustless Quiche

Or Shake'n'Bake Quiche as it was known a while ago at Tupperware parties. This recipe is from my sister, who must've attended more Tupperware parties than I as I never had the recipe before. I think it's also known as "Impossible Pie". Great recipe for a quick 'throw together' dinner. Use whatever you have on hand. This is the base recipe. You just add whatever you have lurking in the fridge. I used chicken, blanched silverbeet and topped with two sliced Baby Roma tomatoes I had in the fridge.

Crustless Quiche

4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted (optional)
2 cups milk (slightly less)
1/2 cup plain flour (slightly more)
1 cup cheese, grated
(How are they for accurate measurements?)

Mix all ingredients together. This mixture will be lumpy but don't worry about it. The flour settles to the bottom and edges of the quiche, forming a light crust. Add fillings of your choice. Pour into a grease quiche/pie dish/slice pan and bake at 180 deg C for 30 mins or until golden and set.

Chicken, bacon, salmon, tuna, ham
Spinach, silverbeet, capsicum, mushrooms, onion, spring onions, corn, grated carrot, asparagus
Herbs and spices to compliment ingredients
Different types of cheeses


Friday, March 18, 2011

On My Mind...

This is a Friday photo feature that anyone with a blog can join. It opens the door to us sharing our lives through these photos and gives us all a new way to discover each other, and maybe form new friendships. Your photo should show something at home that you're thinking about TODAY. If you're in another country you should join in when you read this, even if it's still Thursday.

To take part, all you have to do is post a photo, write a short caption explaining it, and link it back to here. Please write a new post, don't link to an older one. When your photo is published, come back and add a comment below, with a link to your blog photo. Please visit all the blogs that appeal to you and leave a comment. If you are wondering why no one has commented on your On my mind post, maybe it's because you haven't commented on anyone else's. Slow down, take the time to cruise around and enjoy your cyber visits.

On my mind today, I'm planning for a 'girl's day out' tomorrow. My 6 year old daughter, my Mother and I are visiting and spending the day with my Aunt. I wanted to put together a little embroidery project in her sewing box so she had something to do while we were there. She has just started showing an interest in small hand sewing projects. My Aunt is one of the best quilters I've ever seen. Her talents don't stop there. She can crotchet a duchess set in an afternoon, knit all sorts of toys/jumpers/whatever, sew, cook and her latest passion for a while now, quilting. I might just take my camera and share some of her projects with you.


The Birthday Cakes - so far!

Vintage Birthday Party
[Photo courtesy of Zayabibu - Flickr)
When I had my children, I had grandiose ideas of their birthday parties being simple affairs with a plain vanilla cake, delightfully iced in their favourite colours with a few lollies sprinkled on top. How wrong was I? In the last couple of years they have become full on productions with my kitchen resembling a cake making factory in November (one born on the 9th and the other born on the 25th). I'm a born organiser and love to have a theme for each birthday and go the 'whole hog', only to regret it the next day when I'm totally exhausted.

I've always been okay at making cakes but decoratively icing them wasn't a strong forté of mine. I think I have come a long way since their first birthday cakes but still a long way to go. I'm trying to work on a way of telling the kids to have a combined birthday this year but being different genders and one a very 'girly girl' and the other a really 'boistrous boy', I'm not liking my chances.

B's 1st Birthday Cake:
No Fuss Fudge Cake filled with fresh cream and topped with icing and Beacon Mini Licorice Allsorts (South African brand) and Smarties.

B's 2nd Birthday Cake:

No Fuss Fudge Cake drowned by watery icing and topped with car lollies and sprinkles. (With a 2 year old toddler boy and a 4 year old daughter with attitude, I think I was lucky to get something on a plate!)

(B's 3rd birthday cake pictures were on the computer when it crashed so don't have them. It was a number '3' made like a race track with a real Lightning McQueen toy car on it.)

B's 4th Birthday Cake:
Homebrand vanilla packet cake topped with buttercream, milk bottle lollies cut for white lines on road. Figurines were inedible but trust me, attempts were made. This was a Buzz Lightyear CAR birthday theme. Not just Buzz Lightyear but the car! My boy is car mad!!!

E's 3rd Birthday cakes:
Homebrand vanilla cake mix decorated with marshmallows and Smarties in the form of frangipani flowers.

E's 4th Birthday Cake:
Homebrand vanilla cake mix with buttercream and store bought icing flowers. This was a My Little Pony themed birthday party.

Because she was in Kindergarten, the above cake wasn't enough. I also did a cake for the family for her actual birthday and cupcake cones for Kindy! Arggghhhhh!

E's 5th Birthday Cake:
Homebrand vanilla cake mix iced with buttercream. I created a volcano by baking some cake mix in a metal milkshake cup. Iced with chocolate icing and made red coloured toffee and broke in shards for lava. This was a "Land Before Time" dinosaur party. We had even created a 'Jurassic Park' environment under our back pergola with a camouflage net draped from above, long strips of crepe paper for jungle vines, dinosaur foot prints sprayed on the pavers. Heaps of dinosaur themed party snacks. Will try to remember to take photos of all that stuff from now on.

E's 6th Birthday Cake:
Again, Homebrand vanilla cake mix iced with bakery ready made icing. I bought 1kg of bakery icing cream for $3. It doesn't need to be refrigerated and I wondered how I might've kept this in the fridge if it was iced with buttercream. November weather isn't kind to butter icing in Brisbane. It piped really well. Tastes vile, but the kids seem to like it. I've been making the cake from the 70 cent Homebrand vanilla cake mix over the last few years as I've found it to be more cost effective. The kids usually just eat the icing and don't bother with the cake. There's always too much going on. This was a Barbie Princess themed birthday party. Will definitely try to get more photos at the kid's next birthdays.

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